Anti-rezoning protestors crashed a public forum last week on Bushwick rezoning plans (open space planning). The forum reviewed two conflicting plans, one set forth by Mayor Bill di Blasio’s office, and the other in plans released by the Department of City Planning. The three neighborhoods currently set for rezoning are Bushwick, Gowanus and Southern Boulevard.
Councilmembers Antonio Reynoso and Rafael Espinal, who represent different parts of North Brooklyn, endorse the Bushwick Community Plan, which sets itself apart from the City’s Proposal with specific demands for increased capital investment in academic institutions and open spaces, along with considerations for new manufacturing districts.
Public outcry against these initiatives recall the rapid gentrification of Williamsburg, which displaced many families of color. Alex Fennell, Director of the Churches United for Fair Housing (CUFFH), purports that these rezoning proposals reinforce “segregation in New York [as] Blacks and Latinos [are] pushed into smaller and smaller enclaves until communities of color disappear.” Local engagement on Twitter echo these fears, and Mi Casa No Es Su Casa has drafted an online Petition advocating against both the City’s Rezoning Proposal and Bushwick Community plan in favor of “fighting for a people-led plan that will keep us in our homes and in our community.”
Organized anti-gentrification and anti-rezoning activist groups like Mi Casa No Es Su Casa, G-REBLS, The Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network (BAN), and CUFFH have been consistent in their resistance to the two plans. In an email openly opposing the DCP, Mi Casa No Es Su Casa decried the City’s Proposal as “racist and classist: “DCP is responsible for racist rezonings all over the city,” and what Bushwick needs instead is more and better low-income housing to combat landlord code violations and harassment. Fennell also emphasizes the importance of Bushwick’s continued advocacy of its community’s needs in the face of rezoning.
In the, “draft scope” the City released in June, the DCP and Mayor’s office outlined new plans for land-use, potential impacts that included a pending Environmental Impact Report, and general execution blueprint to handle a potential increase of 17,849 residents and 6,116 workers in Bushwick within the decade of implementation. The draft scope envisions that the rezoning could lead to an increase of commercial space, community facility space, and industrial space, and a decrease of self-storage and parking spaces. It also claims to accommodate approximately 332 new affordable housing units on publicly-owned sites.
Reynoso responded to the protesters lamenting that there is no perfect solution, so much as a better plan of action. Reynoso told City Limits, “Right now, I want to do exactly what the community wants, the city will not do it. They are going to just shut [the rezoning] down. And I am ok with that too but I am going to do what the community wants, and if you don’t play ball with them — they are just going to walk away.”
Cover photo courtesy of Erik Kantar.
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